Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), June 15-22, 2008, The Holy Land

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Orthodox Primates with other leading bishops from across the globe are to invite fellow Bishops, senior clergy and laity from every province of the Anglican Communion to a unique eight-day event, to be known as the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) 2008.

The event, which was agreed at a meeting of Primates in Nairobi last week, will be in the form of a pilgrimage back to the roots of the Church’s faith. The Holy Land is the planned venue. From 15-22 June 2008, Anglicans from both the Evangelical and Anglo-catholic wings of the church will make pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where Christ was born, ministered, died, rose again, ascended into heaven, sent his Holy Spirit, and where the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out, to strengthen them for what they believe will be difficult days ahead.

At the meeting were Archbishops Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Henry Orombi (Uganda), Emmanuel Kolini (Rwanda), Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Donald Mtetemela (Tanzania), Peter Jensen (Sydney), Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria); Bishop Don Harvey (Canada), Bishop Bill Atwood (Kenya) representing Archbishop Greg Venables (Southern Cone) , Bishop Bob Duncan (Anglican Communion Network), Bishop Martyn Minns (Convocation of Anglicans in North America ), Canon Dr Vinay Samuel (India and England) and Canon Dr Chris Sugden (England). Bishops Michael Nazir-Ali (Rochester, England), Bishop Wallace Benn (Lewes, England) were consulted by telephone. These leaders represent over 30 million of the 55 million active Anglicans in the world.

Southern Cone Primate Gregory Venables said: “While there are many calls for shared mission, it clearly must rise from common shared faith. Our pastoral responsibility to the people that we lead is now to provide the opportunity to come together around the central and unchanging tenets of the central and unchanging historic Anglican faith. Rather than being subject to the continued chaos and compromise that have dramatically impeded Anglican mission, GAFCON will seek to clarify God’s call at this time and build a network of cooperation for Global mission.”

Read it carefully and read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalGlobal South Churches & Primates

30 Comments
Posted December 27, 2007 at 5:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. azusa wrote:

This looks like a preemptive action, serving notice where the orthodox leadership of Anglicanism is to be found and where it is headed - ad fontes. It can’t be read as anything other than a rebuff to the ABC for his temporizing and refusal to grasp the nettle. Is it an alternative to Lambeth? It could well turn out that way.

December 27, 6:51 am | [comment link]
2. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

Gordian, it seems to be more of an orthodox party caucus prior to the main event, although even then, some will stay away and their views will be prosecuted at Lambeth only by proxy.

December 27, 7:30 am | [comment link]
3. obadiahslope wrote:

Peter Jensen (the Archbishop of Sydney) has written an article on Gafcon: he addresses Gordian’s point:
“The Anglican Future Conference is not designed to take the place of Lambeth. Some people may well choose to go to both. Its aim is to draw Biblical Anglican Christians together for urgent consultation. It is not a consultation which can take place at Lambeth, because Lambeth has a different agenda and far wider guest list.  Unlike Lambeth, the Future Conference is not for Bishops alone – the invitations will go to clergy and lay people also. But it is a meeting which accepts the current reality of a Communion in disarray over fundamental issues of the gospel and biblical authority. It therefore seeks to plan for a future in which Anglican Christians world-wide will increasingly be pressured to depart from the biblical norms of behaviour and belief. It gives an opportunity for many to draw together to strengthen each other over the issue of biblical authority and interpretation and gospel mission.”
link

December 27, 7:52 am | [comment link]
4. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

In regard to my “party caucus” characterization, Archbishop Peter Jensen apparently agrees, in the article cited by obadiahslope:

Its aim is to draw Biblical Anglican Christians together for urgent consultation.

December 27, 7:59 am | [comment link]
5. azusa wrote:

#2: I agree with your take, but as this isn’t just a ‘Global South’ thing (of which there have been several in the past), I wonder if this isn’t laying the groundwork - and giving the ‘authorization’ - for a reconstituted Anglican Communion. Or maybe such a thing is well underway already, I can’t keep track of the blizzard of meetings and acronyms flying about. But it’s clear that the living and growing parts of the Communion have had enough of the obfuscation and termporizing of ‘the North’, and no amount of ‘professional conciliation’ or whatever expensive rabbit RW is trying to pull out of his miter is going to work the trick. Tec needs repentance and time on its own to consider its future, not more of the same old same old.

December 27, 8:10 am | [comment link]
6. RMBruton wrote:

This Anglican Haj to the Holy Land will probably do some good, while some may feel that it will strain already tense relationships within the Communion. I tend to be a bit wary whenever I hear people say that such an event will include the next generation of leaders, that’s a bit presumptive. Still, a good pilgrimage never hurt anyone except, perhaps Bishop Pike.

December 27, 9:18 am | [comment link]
7. RoyIII wrote:

Combat by conference - only in the church.

December 27, 9:43 am | [comment link]
8. robroy wrote:

I read ABp Jensen’s letter. Helpful to understand what it is all about. He stated that invitations to clergy and laity will be forthcoming. If any of the movers and shakers are reading, might I suggest Father David Handy?

I just started Philip Jenkins’ revised and expanded, The Next Christendom (which I received for Christmas and Father Handy agreed was rather fortuitous gift). It appears that we are in for quite a ride. But Philip Jenkins cautions that the conservative of the Western church not to view the GS as merely to provide numerical backing to the orthodox West. 

http://www.amazon.com/Next-Christendom-Coming-Global-Christianity/dp/019518307X/

December 27, 10:17 am | [comment link]
9. kensaw1 wrote:

The domain name is registered by Canon Dr Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream.
http://www.dnsstuff.com/tools/whois.ch?ip=gafcon.org

December 27, 10:22 am | [comment link]
10. TonyinCNY wrote:

Can you say realignment? I knew you could.

December 27, 10:30 am | [comment link]
11. larswife wrote:

Although the Bishop of Jerusalem is nowhere listed, can one assume that he is supportive and/or hosting?

December 27, 3:16 pm | [comment link]
12. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#8, robroy,

Perhaps I should make clear, in case there are any skeptics reading this, that you, robroy, were in no way bribed to suggest that I be invited to the big GAFCON event in Jerusalem in June.  Dream on…

But you have once again shown why you the “the Man,” robroy.  You are the head honcho, the big cheese, the illustrious President of the NRA Fan Club.

Now, getting serious, there has already been a long thread about this thrilling development up and running over at Stand Firm (over 180 posts there so far).  I urge people to go have a look, as there are many interesting comments about different aspects of this exciting event next summer.

For starters, however, let me mention a few key points I find especially significant.  First, this conference is not just for bishops, but will include priests and lay leaders from around the globe (and not just the Global South either).  In that sense, it is less an alternative to the Lambeth Conference a month later as it is a potential alternative to the ACC, which likewise includes all those orders of ministry.

Second, I like the idea of meeting in Jerusalem.  That suggests not only a fresh start through a pilgrimage to the place where the Christian Church began, but a sequel of sorts to the original Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15.  The great Lesslie Newbigin always claimed that the Acts 15 gathering represents probably the most important church council of all time, as it opened the gates to let in Gentile converts on an equal footing with Jewish believers and thus determined the character and set the course of Christian mission for the ages to come.  But it also reminds me of Pentecost itself, as descirbed in Acts 2.

Do you remember the beautiful prayer of Pope John XXIII when he called together the world’s Catholic bishops for what we know as Vatican II?  He prayed that the council would lead to the renewal of the whole Church, and thus he prayed for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, in order that the Church might perhaps experience the wonder of “a new Pentecost.”

That is now my prayer for GAFCON.  Like Vatican II, may it lead to the renewal of the Church, starting with us Anglicans.  And my earnest hope and plea is that the Lord would mercifully grant us “a new Pentecost.”  If so, who knows what might happen?  It might even turn out to be nothing less than a New Reformation.

David Handy+

December 27, 4:49 pm | [comment link]
13. Mick wrote:

#11

Although the Bishop of Jerusalem is nowhere listed, can one assume that he is supportive and/or hosting?

You mean the bishop who has a companion link with the Diocese of LA and had +Bruno prominently at his installation? The bishop who was ‘excommunicated’ by a Pittsburgh-licenced American priest who is working in his diocese? Will he even be considered ‘orthodox’ enough to warrant an invitation, never mind host it? It will be interesting to hear if he was even consulted.

December 27, 4:58 pm | [comment link]
14. larswife wrote:

#13 - I was thinking of Mouneer Anis, Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and Middle East.  Is that to whom you are referring?

December 27, 6:21 pm | [comment link]
15. Mick wrote:

I was thinking of Mouneer Anis, Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and Middle East.  Is that to whom you are referring?

No. +Anis is bishop of the Diocese of Egypt. He may be presiding bishop of the province, but he is not Bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem.

December 27, 6:27 pm | [comment link]
16. larswife wrote:

#15 - This may clear up the confusion on both of our parts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Episcopal_Church_in_Jerusalem_and_the_Middle_East

December 27, 6:34 pm | [comment link]
17. Mick wrote:

No confusion. +Anis is Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt and President Bishop (Primate) of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle-East. +Suheil Dawani is Bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem. +Anis is not, therefore, the ‘Bishop of Jerusalem’ and only has such authority over that diocese as their canons and constitution allow. Good manners, at least, would dictate that the organisers of an international conference involving Anglican bishops would seek the approval of +Dawani to hold such a function within his jurisdiction.

December 27, 6:45 pm | [comment link]
18. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

Mick, your comments as to appropriate ‘good manners’ protocol are correct. But there is no evidence here in the blogosphere either pro or con that demonstrates whether or not that protocol has been or is being followed. If this is a serious question that you have, I suggest that you direct your question to +Greg Venables, the primate of the Southern Cone. He is not that hard to contact.

New Reformation Advocate/David Handy+, check your PM.

December 27, 6:56 pm | [comment link]
19. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Br_er Rabbit,

I’ve seen and responded to your PM.  I commend you for jumping in early and setting the tone for this thread, by pointing to how the GAFCON may be seen as sort of a “caucus” before Lambeth.  I hope it fact that this is how it indeed turns out.  I still haven’t given up all hope that Nigeria and Uganda will go to Lambeth after all.  July is still a long way away and much can happen before then.  In any case, having just praised robroy to high heaven above, let me here point out how blessed the NRAFC is to have you as an officer too.

But regardless, I think this exciting new gathering in Jerusalem will amount to much more than a mere caucus.  We may be witnessing the beginning of a whole new Instrument of Unity/Communion emerging for the AC, one that could replace or otherwise transform the international ACC (which also includes bishops, priests, and laity, and hopefully some deacons too).

Or as I tried to suggest earlier (in my post #12), this mission planning conference could even end up being rather like Vatican II, in the sense of being a great reforming council that leads to the renewal of the worldwide Church.  And maybe even a new Pentecost.  Who knows?  We serve a God of wonders beyond human imagining (witness the Incarnation).

David Handy+

December 27, 7:32 pm | [comment link]
20. Bob from Boone wrote:

Take note of the primates who will be attending. They are the boundary-breaking “Big Four” in Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda) plus Tanzania, and a bunch of American bishops who belong to their provinces; add Jensen, boundary-breaker Venables and a few others. This is hardly a “global Anglican” meeting, and not even a “Global South” meeting. But it could well be the organizing group for a “future” Anglican Communion 2, one doctrinally purified of liberals and other sinners and firmly ensconced in the Calvinist reformation. Whatever they create, it won’t be Anglicanism.

December 28, 12:13 pm | [comment link]
21. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#20, Bob from Boone,

I sense some anger there.  “Whatever they create, it won’t be Anglicanism.”  Hmmm.  By what definition, Bob?  Who gets to define what constitutes authentic “Anglicanism?”  And on what basis?

Suffice to say for starters, that I think you’ve misjudged the group behind this exciting new venture.  It will NOT be simply made up of low-church Anglicans as you seem to imply in a quite derogatory fashion.  By labeling them as “Calvinist” you seem to want to lump all these leaders in the “Puritan” camp, but that charge simply won’t stick.  Just to mention a few names, +Bob Duncan, “the Lion-Hearted,” may be bishop of a very low-church diocese, but he’s personally high church.  And the Southern Cone has just taken in the Diocese of San Joaquin, with Ft. Worth waiting in the wings and on the way.  The CCP includes the Forward in Faith people and so on.  Let’s wait and see how this develops.  But my guess is that ++Drexel Gomez will jump on board too, and he’s an ardent Anglo-Catholic, for sure.

But maybe what really upsets you about this GAFCON group is that it does indeed seek to exclude “liberals.”  You seem angry and convinced that the vey attempt to create a “doctrinally purified” church is a fundamentally “unAnglican” thing to do.

Well, on what basis, Bob?  Need I say that I couldn’t disagree more?  I’ve written elsewhere, on other T19 and SF threads, that it is precisely our endless compromising on doctrinal boundaries that has gotten us into this mess.  I myself would favor a MUCH STRICTER and MUCH MORE DOGMATIC type of Anglicanism.  But that doesn’t make me a Calvinist or a Puritan.  Not in the least.  If anything, it reveals how catholic I tend to be, in the patristic sense. 

I say that it’s high time to put the Doctrine and the Discipline back in the “Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship” of Anglicanism.  And yes, it’s high time to start ex-communicating and deposing liberals all over the place.  I’m totally in favor of that.  I LOVE the idea of a “doctrinally purified” Anglican Communion!  But that does NOT mean excluding whole wings of the AC (whether “high and crazy, low and lazy, or even broad and hazy”).  Indeed, I favor EXPANDING the doctrinal limits of Anglicanism in certain ways, so that it morphs from a bipolar Portestant-Catholic hybrid into a three-dimensional “Protestant-Catholic-Pentecostal” synthesis of all three elements.  And as someone with a Ph.D. in biblical studies I’m not at all opposed to the free use of Reason or afraid of good scholarship either. 

Instead, what I strenuously oppose is the blatant MISUSE of science and the mindless and uncritical appeal to personal experience on the part of the pro-gay activists in our midst.  We who champion the cause of orthodoxy within Anglicanism have Scripture, Tradition, AND REASON on our side.  The liberals have NONE of them.  We are right.  They are wrong.  End of discussion.

David Handy, Ph.D.
Proud to be a priest of the Anglo-Catholic Diocese of Albany
as well as proud to be a Wheaton College evangelical too

December 28, 1:07 pm | [comment link]
22. Ross wrote:

#21:

I can’t speak for Bob, of course.  But the entire point of this conference appears to be to reform the Anglican Communion so as to exclude me and people like me—“liberals,” as you put it.  I would be one of the first people excommunicated from the newly reformed Anglican church you wish for so ardently, so you’ll understand if I’m not wildly enthusiastic about the possibility.

Now, if reasserting Anglican leaders from around the world want to get together to talk and strategize, then of course they have every right to do that.  And if they decide they want to branch off and form a new, purified, doctrinally strict Orthodox Anglican Communion, or Global South Anglican Communion, or whatever they would want to call themselves, well, again they have every right to do that, and more power to them.

But I do not concede them the right to tell me that I’m not an Anglican Christian, and that’s what they’re currently busy doing.

December 28, 2:12 pm | [comment link]
23. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#22, Ross,

I’m glad you chimed in.  The more the merrier.  I hope you won’t take my earlier post personally, since it wasn’t aimed at you.  Nor was it really aimed at Bob either, whom I don’t know at all.

So let’s see if we can’t make the discussion more objective and less personal.  I may be wrong, but part of what I detected in Bob’s comment was a vigorous protest against the whole notion that a “doctrinally purified” AC was a good thing.  And you seem to agree on that score anyway, i.e., you don’t want to see Anglicanism become more doctrinally “pure” or exclusive.

That is a big and complex topic, not to mention being a highly controversial one, and especially so in these tense and highly conflicted times.  So let me try to clarify what I meant, and perhaps we’ll find that we have more common ground than it appears at first sight.  Or maybe not.

I would agree that part of the genius of Anglicanism has been that it has had a strong tendency to avoid overdefining itself doctrinally.  That is, I would say that one of our strengths has been that we’ve managed to focus our attention on the CENTER or the “core doctrines” of the Christian faith, as opposed to clearly defining just where the outer limits lie.  More creedally oriented traditions, whether Lutheran, Presbyterian, or Roman Catholic say, have attempted to clarify the outer boundaries in much more detail, with all the strife that inevitably generates.

That basic decision of ours as Anglicans has both strengths and weaknesses (as do their decisions as well).  The way I like to put it is as follows.  We Anglicans have tended to regard Doctrine as being like the bright red central bullseye on an archer’s target.  We tell people, “You see that red center, well, aim at that.”  But this whole approach depends on the ability to distinguish essential from non-essential doctrines.  And that is exactly where our problem now lies.

Here’s what I mean.  The tragedy is that the whole sense of there being clear “core doctrines” anymore has vanished.  It’s gone.  Kaput.  Extinct like the Dodo bird.

Two examples should suffice.  We have been notoriously unable to impose any doctrinal boundaries whatsover on our most infamously skeptical bishops, like James Pike or John Shelby Spong.  And that is simply a disaster in my opinion.  It’s catastrophic.  Now I’d agree that an open mind is a good thing.  And as someone with a Ph.D. in New Testament I’m fully in favor of free inquiry among scholars.  But an open mind is like an open door or window, it needs screens to keep the bugs out!  Unless you like bugs flying around your house.  I don’t.  Now if I go on a picnic, that’s one thing, I expect some bugs to be around.  But I don’t like them flying around my house.

The second bit of evidence that our sense of doctrinal essentials has disappeared completely comes from the notorious heresy trial of Bp. Walter Righter in 1995 (or was it 1996?).  As you doubtless are aware, Ross, the panel of bishops investigating the matter concluded that by ordaining an openly sexually active gay man +Righter had violated no “core doctrine” of TEC.  Now perhaps you celebrate that as a victory for justice and gay rights, but it’s simply ridiiculous from an honest doctrinal standpoint.  And of course, our Canadian neighbors have recently made a similar decision when their last General Synod accepted the suggestion of the St. Michael Report and solemnly declared that homosexual practice and the authroization of SSBs was not contrary to the “core doctrines” of the ACoC. 

Frankly, I find that claim totally unbelievable, and even ludicrous.  For what it reveals so tellingly is that both TEC and the ACoC have been willing to go on record as officially declaring by implication that the authroity of Holy Scripture is no longer a “core doctrine” for them.  For the simple fact is, as Lambeth 1998 rightly insisted, homosexual behavior is flatly “incompatible with Holy Scripture.”  The biblical witness is absolutely clear and consistent with regard to the morality of same sex behavior, namely that it’s categorically wrong, immoral, and an abomination.  But if there’s anything that’s most definitely a “core doctrine” in classical Anglicanism, it’s the supreme and primary authority of the Bible.  No we don’t uphold the ultra Protestant notion of “sola scriptura” as Anglicans, and no, we don’t uphold biblical inerrancy.  But we DO insist that every person being ordained solemnly swear that they believe the Bible “to be the word of God…”  Articles 20 and 34 of the old 39 Articles may no longer be binding on all Anglicans but they do represent our classical understanding that nothing contrary to God’s Word may be taught.

Going back to my earlier visual analogy of the archer’s target, the basic problem is that theological liberalism has eroded the center of the target until it now looks more like a doughnut!  That is, whereas, the idea of “core doctrines” suggests to me that these crucial, essential doctrines function like the dense, hot, molten core of the earth, generating a strong gravitational pull that is supposed to hold us all together.  Liberalism has created a vacuum where that central core is supposed to be, and thus there is nothing left to hold us together doctrinally, and so we continue to fly farther and farther apart.  Like the hole in the center of the doughnut.

Frankly, when I hear the PB preach and speak, I generally find that I have virtually NOTHING in common with her anymore.  Nothing that matters anyway.  It’s like we believe in two completely different religions, that may share some common vocabulary, but the meanings of the words have become radically different.

Like I said before, an open mind is a great thing.  But it’s like an open door or window, it needs screens to keep the bugs out.  Doctrinal boundaries are in fact a neccessary and vital thing.  We simply MUST restore them.  No matter how many liberals get excluded, rightly, in the process.  And since I don’t know you, Ross, that has absolutely nothing to do with you personally.

Please note:  this has NOTHING to do with conservatism versus liberalism really.  It has EVERYTHING to do with STRICTNESS versus LENIENCY.  There are LOTS of people who post on T19 and SF who are more conservative than I am.  No need to mention names here, but the vast majority of people in the CCP would be more conservative than I am on such matters as the dating and authorship of the NT books, for example (my Ph.D. does make a difference).  But on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely lenient on matters of doctrine, and 10 being extremely STRICT on maintaining clear doctrinal boundaries and enforcing them, I will freely admit that I’m a 10.  That’s right, a freaking 10.  Lots of people are more conservative than I am (for example, I strongly favor the ordination of women), but hardly anyone is an ultra strict as I am.  Maybe not even ++Peter Akinola!  Many of my friends claim that I’m really a Roman Catholic at heart.  Well, I suppose that is a debatable subject…

David Handy+
Advocate of STRICT, DOGMATIC Anglicanism
(I’m so dogmatic I’m even strongly anti-antidogmatism)

December 28, 4:13 pm | [comment link]
24. paulo uk wrote:

My dear Bob the four BIG and their friends represent about 70% of the Anglican Communion, Because the CofE does not have 24.000.000 adherents and TEC also doesn’t have 2.400.000(just in their dreams)

December 28, 8:31 pm | [comment link]
25. flatlander wrote:

#23, NRA

Even though this is now an old thread, I have just read and do concur with most of what you have written, but I cannot understand how you can strongly favor the ordination of women when it is not scripturally consistent. How can you support that in respect to what is written in the Bible? That, I would counter, is revisionism also.

December 29, 8:31 am | [comment link]
26. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#25, flatlander,

Well, I thought that perhaps this thread had died out, but you have revived it.  Thanks for asking in a respectful manner.  You are one of many who wonder how I can be so fiercely opposed to the revisionists on the pro-gay issue, and yet strongly support the ordination of women.  I understand that it can seem totally inconsistent and nonsensical.

At the risk of having the Elves declare this off-topic, let me attempt a very breif answer here, and then, if you wish, we could continue discussing it off-line.

In essence, my answer is quite simple.  The two issues are radically different in nature because the biblical evidence is very different when it comes to WO (women’s ord.), since the biblical teaching is divided in the case of WO (or so I firmly believe anyway, you may well disagree, many do).

The Windsor Report recognized this fact, and so have many scholars, but it still hasn’t filtered down to the laity in many places.  The trouble is that the anti-WO passages in Scripture are very clear, obvious, and emphatic (such as 1 Tim. 2:11 and 1 Cor. 14:34-35), whereas the ones that CAN at least be plausibly taken to support WO are considerably more subtle, scattered, and thus easy to overlook.  So it’s not surprising that you have concluded that WO is simply and flatly contrary to Holy Scripture.  What I’m saying is, “ain’t necessarily so.”  Before I mention some of the biblical evidence I have in mind, just recall that no Lambeth Conference has ever declared, as 1998 did with regard to homosexual behavior, that WO is “incompatible with Holy Scripture.”  And it’s precisely for that reason that we are in a period of “reception” in the AC, where this radical innovation is being tested to see if the whole AC can come to a mutual agreement in their discernment on this issue.  That is, we are allowing this process of reception to take place, because this issue is not regarded as already settled in principle, since the Bible doesn’t rule out WO as clearly and emphatically as it obviously does rule out homosexual behavior.  At least, the provinces of Uganda and Kenya don’t think it’s unbiblical, because they too support the ordination of women (and not just the corrupted western provinces).

So what kind of possible biblical support does exist for WO?  Well, I’d point to several things.  First, there is clear evidence to suggest that women were ordained deacons in the NT period.  Phoebe is one, the woman who carried Paul’s letter from Corinth to Rome (see Rom. 16:1).  And please note that this probably (though not certainly) implies that Paul trusted Phoebe to explain difficult passages in the complicated letter (and thus implicitly teaching men, contrary in a sense to 1 Tim. 2:11, although she would only be passing on Paul’s teaching, not giving her own).  Also see 1 Tim. 5:11, which appears to refer to women deacons (although some cliam it only refers to deacon’s wives, the Greek is ambiguous).  And there is historical evidence in the early post-NT period for women being ordained deacons too (not “deaconnesses” mind you, but deacons).  Thus, a conservative group like AMiA has chosen to allow women to be ordained as deacons, just not as priests or bishops.

OK, second type of evidence, the frequent mention of female “co-workers” in Paul’s letters.  Now of course, we have no real idea what kind of work they did, but there is absolutely no doubt that women are carrying on some kind of important ministry along with the great Apostle.  Once again, look at Romans 16.  Among the many, many names listed there that Paul sends greetings to are a number of women who are thus described as co-workers of some sort (in fact, about 1/3 of the names are female).  The most fascinating case, of course, is the Junia (June) listed in Rom. 16:7, along with Andronicus (probably her husband).  There has been a lot of controversy about this, but the most natural reading of the verse is that Paul is sending especially fond greetings to Andronicus and Junia, fellow Jewish believers and even relatives of his, who are “prominent among the apostles” in the sense of being famous “apostles” themselves (in the generic sense of being missionaries, “sent-out ones,” not apostles in the Lukan sense of being among the Twelve disciples).  Another possibility, of course, is that what Paul means is just that this couple are regarded as famous by others who are apostles,even though Andronicus and Junia aren’t apostles themselves.  I favor the former interpretation as the most natural one, and that would make June/Junia a woman apostle (in the generic sense).  Alas, it’s not clear.

Third, however, are some key NT texts that strongly suggest a quite egalitarian concept of ministry in the first generation of the Church, that later became more restricted as the Christian movement grew and became more prominent in Roman society.  I’ll mention just two here.  First, the famous theological principle in Gal. 3:28, i.e., that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, not even male nor female, but all are one in Christ.  Obviously, there is some tension here between a text like this and other passages that restrict women’s roles in the church and the family in various ways (not just 1 Tim. 2, but household code passages about wives such as in Eph. 5, Col. 3, and 1 Pet. 2).  That’s too complicated to get into here.  Suffice to say, I think they can be reconciled, but it’s complex and involves understanding the (limited) impact of cultural conditioning on Paul’s teaching (which is always addressed to specific church communities in specific circumstances).  The gist of my argument would be that Gal. 3:28 sounds like a basic theological principle, and the other passages involve specific applications to certain circumstances that don’t necessarily apply to us in the same way today in our very different cultural setting.

Finally, as someone who specializes as a scholar in the study of the book of Acts, I’[ll close with a passage near and dear to my heart, namely, from Acts 2 and the story of Pentecost.  If you’ll recall, in Peter’s great sermon that leads to the conversion of all those thousands of Jews that day, the head apostle quotes a very important passage from Joel 2.  It has a very egalitarina flavor and thrust.  Joel foresaw the day when God would pour out his Spirit on ALL flesh, and “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,” as well as the young and old, the rich and poor, yes, even on the male and female slaves, God would pour out his Spirit and they could all prophesy (see Acts 2:17-18).  The point is clear, although the application to WO may not be so clear.  But it speaks of the desire of the Lord for ALL his people to be used by the Spirit, and not least in proclaiming his word as prophets (daughters and female slaves explicitly included).  Now granted, prophesying is not the same as being ordained as a pastor and teacher.  Again, things get too complicated to solve in one little post, but I hope it gives you at least some idea of the way a person like me that’s so ardently orthodox could honestly believe that there is some biblical support for the idea of women in ministry, even ordained ministry.  I might be wrong about that, of course, and I’m open to that idea.  But at least, it’s texts like these that lead me (and other orthodox leaders and scholars) to think that we have a sufficient biblical basis for arguing that God is now leading the Church to allow women to join as equals with men in ordained ministry.  But time will tell…

I hope that helps.  I expect you’ll still have questions.  That’s normal and natural.  Feel free to send me a private message, and I’d be happy to try to go into more detail or to answer your specific questions.  But again, I appreciate the respectful tone of your inquiry.  Alas, I haven’t always been treated so courteously by those who strongly oppose WO.  It’s a difficult and complex issue and we need to be patient, but clear, with each other.

David Handy+

December 29, 9:41 am | [comment link]
27. Tom Roberts wrote:

It is far clearer to question WO on the basis of it not being Traditional for a female priest to perform the sacrament of the sacrificial eucharist than it is for WO to be cited as unscriptural. The issue in scripture is that various attributes of spiritual leadership are often convolved; priesthood with prophesy for example, and elsewhere separated; there are no female OT priests but several prophetesses. Similarly, while the RC and Orthodox churches hold that a male priesthood Traditionally has origins in the male only Last Supper and Christ’s own sexual identity, nowhere in the NT are female priests proscribed.
Handy+‘s last recommendation is precisely how such Traditional issues are resolved, relying on God’s intent to make all things clear in the His own time.

December 29, 10:03 am | [comment link]
28. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#27, Tom,

Thank you.  I appreciate that last line.  I agree (naturally) that this is how such issues OUGHT to be resolved.  Alas, it often takes longer than one generation for this kind of clarity to emerge.  At any rate, it takes a lot longer than any of us would like.

David Handy+

December 29, 11:55 am | [comment link]
29. flatlander wrote:

#26 David,

I appreciate your comments, and I will be brief because of the lack of sleep due to shoveling of snow.

You are correct that this subject of women ordination may be a little off-topic, but it still is an issue that must be addressed at GAFCON in June. Throughout most of the history of the church and many of the present orthodox bishops and Primates of the Anglican Church still believe, as I do, that the ordination of women is “incompatible with” the scriptures. I also believe that the 1979 change of prayer book helped to facilitate WO since the ordination of women so closely followed on the heels of that change.

Many of us might not have the familiarity with the various scriptures, but we can look up those that deal with WO. I simply and respectfully ask, “How many times does the Bible have to say NO before we believe it?”

Secondly, it was law in the Old Testament, and the Bible has not made any mention that Jesus objected to it. He had no women as disciples, but they did help in His ministry. It does not mean that God valued the female less, but He assigned men and women to different tasks.

I realize that we live in an age of “enlightenment”, but no amount of rationalization can replace the the passages that forbid it.

I apologize that I unable to expand further because of the lack of sleep.

Thank you.

December 29, 2:38 pm | [comment link]
30. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

#29, flatlander,

No need to apologize for a delay in responding.  All of us have other things to do than monitor and respond to posts online.  I again express my appreciation for the respectful and polite tone of your statements. I wish that were always the case when the delicate subject of WO comes up, but all too often it seems to generate more heat than light.  That’s why the Elves monitor these things.

But I’m afraid I’m not sure how to reply to your comment, now that you’ve finished shoveling snow and resting from your labors and ventured back online.  And that’s because I’m not clear on just what biblical passages you are referring to in your post.  For example, you stated, with some indignation it appears, “How many times does the Bible have to say NO before we believe it?”  And then you go on to imply that the OT Law forbids WO.  But you’ve lost me there.  i can’t follow you, since there are no Scriptures that DIRECTLY address the topic in either the NT or the OT.

Can you see how this is different from the topic of homosexual behavior?  For same sex intercourse is DIRECTLY and EXPLICITLY forbidden in both the OT and the NT (e.g., Lev. 18:20; 1 Cor. 6:9; Romans 1:24-27).  But the NT never directly addresses the topic of ordination per se, for either men or women.  The closest it comes is with the list of qualifications for elders/overseers (or “priests” and “bishops”) in 1 Tim. 3, and Titus 1.  That is why there is considerable room for differences in interpretation on this topic, precisely because there is no clear command that settles the issue in the same way that sex outside of marriage is clearly ruled out in many places in the NT.

As I said earlier, this controversial issue is more complex than it may seem at first sight.  And a blog like this is really not the best place to debate such a complicated and contentious issue.  I’d be willing to discuss it more with you privately, but I’m reluctant to pursue the topic much more here, as it would seem to divert attention away from the main topic of this thread.  Feel free to send me a private message, if you like.  Or just keep watching SF and T19.  WO does keep coming up from time to time, because you are quite right that it remains a volatile and unresolved issue in conservative Anglican circles. 

But I also see promising signs that it’s no longer a complete impasse or stalemate situation.  Forward in Faith is participating actively in the Network and CCP, despite being outnumbered there.  And while the Province of Nigeria doesn’t allow women priests in Nigeria itself, it looks like the bishops have graciously allowed CANA the right to choose how to handle the issue in America, without imposing an African answer.  That kind of amicable, cooperative spirit bodes well for the future.

David Handy+

December 29, 3:44 pm | [comment link]
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